tv U.S. Senate CSPAN March 11, 2013 5:00pm-8:00pm EDT
mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: i ask unanimous consent the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask that my statement on judicial nominations --. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. and under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations which the clerk will report. the clerk: nominations, richard gary taranto of maryland to be united states circuit judge for the federal circuit. andrew patrick gordon of nevada to be united states district judge. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be 30 minutes for debate, equally divided and controlled in the usual form. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask consent that the time be divided in such a way that the vote will be at 5:30. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered.
mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask consent that my full statement on the nominations of richard taranto and andrew gordon both of whom i support be included in the record as though read. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: and, mr. president, i ask to speak in morning business on two other matters but using my time under the agreement. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, last week i introduced bipartisan legislation with senator collins to combat the straw purchases and trafficking of firearms. we were joined by other senators from both sides of the aisle and we made good progress since then. last thursday, a few days after i introduced the legislation, the senate judiciary committee voted for our bill as an amendment to stop illegal trafficking and firearms act, s. 54.
this is the first legislative vote on measures relating to gun violence in either the senate or the house since the new town tragedy. every democratic senator on the committee voted in favor of our bill and we were joined in support by the committee's ranking republican, senator grassley. and i appreciate his help in getting this bill out in the weeks of consultation he -- he was involved with. the white house called the judiciary committee action an important bipartisan step that takes on the very serious problem of gun trafficking and i agree with the white house. yet the signing of the violence against women reauthorization act and the victims protecting, the leahy-crapo bill last thursday, the president called the judiciary committee's action on our bill a big step and real progress. he noted our bill would crack down on folks who buy guns only to turn around and funnel them
to dangerous criminals. and i hope to make progress on this legislation, other bills. we have the strong support of several letting law enforcement organizations including the fraternal order of police, the f.b.i. agents association, the major cities chiefs association, the federal law enforcement officers association, the national organization of black law enforcement executives, and last week i received a letter from the naacp supporting it. now, mr. president, just so senators will know tomorrow the judiciary committee will continue its work on three remaining gun violence measures. senator schumer's proposal to expand requirements for background checks, senator boxer's proposal to enhance the safety of our schools, and senator feinstein's bill to
reinstitute assault weapons ban. i'd like to have these completed by the end of this week in the judiciary committee. you know, last week when the president signed the violence against women act, -- and trafficking victims protection legislation, he said we were able to pass this on a bipartisan measure because the american people spoke up. that's what happened on the vawa bill when a group of house republicans switched their position to support passing the vawa bill even though they had opposed passing it last year. the assaults in the context of the gun violence legislation, seven of the eight republican senators on the judiciary committee voted against closing the loopholes in the law to combat straw purchases and gun trafficking even though
virtually every law enforcement agency i've heard from in this country wants us to close the loophole and in the law and wants to us stop straw purchasing where people go in and legitimately buy weapons but do it so they can then sell them to drug cartels or various other gangs, criminal gangs that couldn't have bought them otherwise. the police say closing this loophole does nothing to stop a legitimate gun owner from having a gun, but it cannot cut down on guns going to criminal syndicates. as one who served in law enforcement, i don't know why-in anyone would disagree with the police on this one. so if we're going to be able to close loopholes in the background check system and improve school safety with more resources, to include
counselors and officers, and if we're going to outlaw straw purchasing in gun trafficking, the american people need to speak up and be heard. if we're going to place limits on high-capacity clips, then it's going to be because the american people demand such action. mr. president, i ask my full statement be made part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, today i'm introducing bipartisan legislation to help promote competition in the wireless industry and restore consumer choice. from 2006 until last year an exemption to the digital millennium copyright act permitted cell phone users to unlock their cell phones when their contract expired, rather than change wireless providers. what this did, of course, was
promote consumer choice. it also brought about competition to the cell phone market. it was allowed to expire last year. now, i've listened, consumers have spoken clearly. they want to retain the right to transfer their cell phones between wireless provide fers they so choose when their contracts expire. that makes a great deal of expense to me. that's why i'm pleased to introduced the unlocking the wireless competition act, introduce it with senator grassley, senator hatch, senator lee and senator franken, who chairs the judiciary committee subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, working closely with chairman goodlatte and members of the house judiciary committee to pass this. it would re-establish the library of congress rule permitting cell phone unlocking.
you know, when we wrote the dmrca, when i wrote it, it was to provide consumer choices. this will bring back such consumer choice. and i ask consent my full statement be made part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask to send to the desk on behalf of myself, mr. grassley, mr. franken, mr. hatch, and mr. lee. the presiding officer: the measure will be received and appropriately referred. mr. leahy: i thank the chair. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum and ask the time be equally divided. the presiding officer: without objection. the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
quorum call: mr. cardin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. the question is on the taranto nomination. mr. cardin: i will ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll.
the presiding officer: under the previous question -- orb, under the previous order, the question is on the gordon nomination. all those in favor say aye. all those opposed, say no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action, and the senate will resume legislative session. the senator from california. mrs. boxer: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent that the
proceed to a -- the senate proceed to a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak up to ten minutes, and i ask unanimous consent that i have up to 20 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: mr. president, the senate is not nompletd. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. mrs. boxer: thank you so much, mr. president. i am very pleased to see that we have confirmed a couple of judges. we have judges all over this country -- nominees waiting to be confirmed and judicial emergencies all over the country, so i hope this is the start of a new day. we'll see what happens. well, mr. president, i stand here as the chairman of the environment and public works committee to talk about one of the greatest threats facing our nation, and that is climate change. dangerous climate change or you could call it climate disruption. and it seems like the only
people that don't get it, you know, are members of congress. they don't get it. last week i talked about a font-page story in "usa today" that highlighted the impacts of climate change unfolding around us. the story that i talked about is the first in a year-long series called "why you should sweat climate change." let me repeat it. "why you should sweat climate change." well, everyone else is sweating about it, but not here-- here-- not had this senate, not in this congress. now, since last week additional information concerning climate change has been released that i want to talk about today. because i want to build a record in this united states senate on an issue that threatens the very lives of our grandchildren. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. the senator from california.
mrs. boxer: thank you. it is hard to imagine that this country is facing a question of our own survival, and so few people seem to care about it. and so i'm going to talk about another report, a study published last week in "science" reports that average global temperatures were higher in the past decade than over most of the previous 11,300 years. let me repeat that. let me repeat that. for any colleague who might be listening, average global temperatures were hiring in the past decade than over most of the previous 11,300 years. but yet the senate does very little.
senator sanders and i have a bill, a very important bill, to put a price on the pollution that is causing the climate to disrupt and to change, and let me just say, we don't have a slew of sponsors. now, the lead study of this "science" report that said "average global temperatures were higher in the past decade than over most of the previous 11,300 years" -- he is a paleoclimatologist at oregon state university. here is what he said. "what's different is the rate of change ... what wife seen over the past 150 years is much greater than anything we saw in the past 11,000 ayes." -- in the past 11,000 years." and that's shawn marcot, ph.d., the leading author of
the study. some people may ask, why is this study important? what does it mean for our kids? what does it mean to our grandkids? well, let's go to another quote. "if the scientists' forecasts are collect correct, the planet will be warmer in 2100 than it has been for 11,300 years." the scientific evidence continues to mount. study after study after study has concluded that the planet is warming, and the impacts have already started. but yet the only place that doesn't seem to get this message is right here in washington, d.c. not at the white house. they get it. president obama understands it. that's why he worked with us to increase fuel economy to keep that carbon pollution out of the air from automobiles and we're moving to 55 miles per gallon standard. that is going to help. but that is not enough.
we need to put a price on pollution. so polluters turn away from dirty energy and turn toward clean energy. that will save us from most of the ravages of climate. but the window is closing on the time frame. because impacts have already started. another study released last week by the national oceanic and atmospheric administration, noaa, found there was a dramatic jump in the amount of imponed in the air in 2012. it was the second-highest one-year increase since 1959. mr. president, when record-keeping began. the increase in carbon in the air is yet another signal that scientists' predictions about climate change and a climate disruption, those predictions are coming true. we've seen it. we've seen the devastating and
far-reaching consequences of unchecked climate disruption in the extreme weather events. the government accountability study, the g.a.o. -- now, they are not partisan. they are not ideological. they recently released a report entitled "2013 high-risk list" that discusses how climate disruption and extreme weather events threaten our nation. this is the general accounting office. mr. president, we -- the taxpayers support the general accounting office. they are nonpartisan. they are straight from the shoulder analysts. they say, "climate change could threaten coastal areas with rising sea levels, alter agricultural productivity, and increase the intensity and frequency of severe weather events such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes." now, this is the g.a.o. i guess they looked out their
window, in addition to looking at the numbers. anyone who looked out their window who lived in the area of superstorm sandy understands this. climate change could threaten our coastal areas. already doing it. i don't know if anybody saw those homes being removed from a beach in massachusetts. gorgeous homes. they were there for a while. gone, because the ocean was going to envelope them. according to the g.a.o., extreme weather events have cost the nation tens of billions of dollars already, just over the past decade. so as these extreme weather events increase, so will the cost to american taxpayers. this is more from the again accounting office. this is not from the e.p.a. this is not from noaa. this is not from barbara boxer. this is not from bernie sanders. this is not from sheldon
whitehouse. this is not from the environment committee. this is from the g.a.o. "the impacts and costliness of weather disasters -- resulting from floods, drought, and/events such as tropical cyclones -- will increase in significance as what are considered 'rare' events become more common and intense due to climate change." you know, when i started in this work, a very long time ago, we talked about the 100-year flood. and we could protect against that 100-year flood. no now as governor cuomo has stated eloquently, we we're seeing thoe hundred-year floods every couple of years. taxpayers are on the hook for events like spoarm sandy and because the federal government owns buildings across the nation, insures property and crops and provides disaster assistance, let's see what else the g.a.o. says. climate change impacts, pose
significant financial risks for the federal government which, by the way, means us all, taxpayers. which owns extensive infrastructure, insures property through federal flood and crop insurance programs, provides atinlt assistance to state and local governments abc news and provides emergency aid in response to natural disasters. so our federal finances are significantly at risk. there is a growing recognition that the cost of inaction could be greater, could be greater and given the government's precarious fiscal position, increasingly difficult to manage given expected budget pressures. mr. president, we're going to see a couple of different budgets emerge, one from the democrats in the senate, one from the republicans in the house. i can tell you they will have different visions for america. one budget, the democratic budget, is going to get to a
deficit reduction, but it will invest in our people. it will say to the very wealthiest you know you have to do your share and we'll see our kids being able to get head start and education and job training, and we'll see the environment being cleaned up. the other budget is going to be hurtful, is going to be painful because the other budget, the republican budget, is going to protect and defend one group of people in this country, and that's the wealthy few. and therefore, there won't be resources to do what we have to do. and we're going to see cutbacks in the kinds of things we need to do to make sure that we plan for this extreme weather, to make sure that we can avert this climate disruption by investing in clean energy. so, mr. president, the g.a.o.
report is clear. unchecked climate change comes at a very high price but that's what's happening in this congress. the president is doing his best. some of us over here are pushing hard. in the house they passed a bill. we fell short because of a filibuster. we had 54, we needed 60. so a price on carbon never happened. and as a result, we're seeing hotter days, hotter climate, more and severe extreme weather. and we need to take these steps. we need to make the investment so as these budgets come down, let's take a look at it and i can assure you, when we have a travesty and a tragedy like sandy, hurricane sandy or superstorm sandy, we're never going to turn away from our people, whether it happens to your state, mr. president, because of severe drought or certain types of -- of pests
that arise because of the change in the weather, and we know what happens. it's happening all over the country. it can happen anywhere. fires raging, droughts raging, extreme weather, snow when you never expect it, torrents of rain that you can't even believe are happening, and yes, these high temperatures. we owe it to our children and our grandchildren not to turn away. now, let's see what the g.a.o. tells us. this is a call from them to us. is anybody listening? is anybody listening who gets to vote in this senate? this is what the g.a.o. says. they call for -- quote -- "a governmentwide strategic approach with strong leadership and the authority to manage climate change risks that encompasses the entire range of
related federal activities and addresses all key elements of strategic planning." now, that's a lot of words for something simple. what the g.a.o. is saying to us is, you guys better act, because this thing is getting out of control. so every time i get a chance on a monday evening, i intend to come down to the floor, take a few minutes to build a case, and i hope an indisputable one, that we put a price on carbon pollution just like we made sure that other pollution had a price on it, whether it was a regulatory price, whether they had to go buy scrubbers keep dangerous pollutants out of the air, carbon pollution is dangerous. it's putting our people at risk. but you wouldn't know it from what's happening around here. and i want to close by thanking my colleague, bernie sanders,
who i'm so proud to serve with. i'm the chairman of the environment committee, and he's a great member and together we've come up with an excellent bill. and the bill takes the proceeds of that carbon tax and investses it in our people, invests it in clean energy, makes sure that our middle class and working poor have the funds they need to pay the higher prices of electricity in the early years, and we will create jobs. and let me tell you, there is no question what is happening to our coastal states. there is no question what is happening to our farms. there is no question what's happening to our natural resources. there's no question what is happening to our species. do you know scientists predict that 50% of god's species will be gone if we do nothing. so when people stand here and laugh off this notion that we are facing severe climate
change, i tell them look at some of the church groups that are supporting us. they've come together, they are with us. they understand that god's creation is at stake. there is no doubt about it. and we are the stewards of this environment, and we are the ones who are supposed to protect it. yet in this united states senate, it's shrugged off as if it's a nothing burger and i have to say to the young people who were here whose future is at stake who want to enjoy the same opportunities that my generation enjoyed, i got to tell you, we owe it to them to do better. and with this g.a.o. report, this nonpartisan report, telling us clearly that we better have a governmentwide strategic approach with strong leadership, i got to say i hope we have more people on this
floor showing that kind of leadership because the clock is ticking, and i would say to every member here, we have old ones and young ones and middle ones. you're here at the moment that we can do something. you're here at the moment we can still do something. the bush administration wasted eight years going to the courts arguing that the clean air act did not cover carbon pollution. eight years they did nothing. and finally the supreme court ruled 5-4 yes, of course, it covers carbon pollution and god bless the obama administration for moving forward in every way they can. unfortunately, without us at this point. and i could tell you we will be judged harshly, harshly, if we
turn away from this. we are here now, we didn't choose this time to be born, we didn't choose the fact that this is an issue that's upon us, but i don't know what's going to wake up this place but i'm going to do my best to ring the bell. as omnibus often as i can. and i thank you very, very much, mr. president. and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: thank you, mr. president. today is the second anniversary of a very tragic event in japan, an earthquake, a tsunami that claimed nearly 16,000 lives, it destroyed community infrastructure, homes, livelihoods, years now after the fact our prayers remain with the people of jean for the lives that were lost --
japan for the lives that were lost and really for the devastation that occurred within that country. i had an opportunity to be in japan in january, and had a chance to see for myself some of the devastation that japan still faces two years after the 3/11 tsunami and earthquake. the pictures that so many of us recall of the nuclear reactor we all watched with great concern as the accident in front of us unfolded, truly a sense of helplessness that was brought about by an act of nature, a massive earthquake delivering a massive wave and truly bringing about massive destruction.
i also had an opportunity after viewing the fukashimi diu chi reactor to visit a small community in the north, a community of about 23,000 people. that community alone lost over 1,900 residents that were swept out to sea, including the life of an alaskan teacher, mr. monte dixon, whose life was lost. to be in this fishing village two years after the fact and see how this community is trying to regain its footing not only economically but really emotionally was really quite -- was really quite compelling. and, again, japan is dealing with the aftermath of this
destruction in ways that we here probably cannot appreciate. from an energy perspective, the country of japan literally overnight went from being a nation where close to 30% of their energy was generated by nuclear to a point where those nuclear reactors, the nuclear power that was generated was truly just shut down, as everything was on pause for that nation. and how a nation really rearranges its energy portfolio is a situation that that country is dealing with as we speak. but there were -- there were connections between japan and the tsunami that i think are still being felt today. when that tsunami hit, the people of alaska were on alert on our coastlines waiting and
wondering whether or not we would be impacted by the giant wave that had taken the lives of so many thousands of japanese. well, we didn't see the big wave, but what we did see and that what we are continuing to see is a level of marine debris that has been carried across the currents from japan across the pacific ocean, hitting hawaii, california, oregon, washington state, british columbia, and circling all along the coastline of my state of alaska. it's estimated that there's about 1.5 million tons of debris that are floating in the ocean. it's -- it is -- it was estimated by the japanese ministry of the environment that
there were five million tons of debris that washed into the ocean. they further estimated that 70% of that debris sank near the coast of japan soon after the event, and this was, of course, something that the japanese fishermen were greatly concerned and worried about. but what is happening now is as that debris, the floating debris, moves its way across the currents, we are seeing it on our shorelines in alaska, in surprising quantities. the picture that we have behind me is debris, the roof of a house, the bottom of a boat, buoys, just a floating mass of debris in the middle of the pacific. these are some of the sightings that we have seen over the course of -- of two years now. sometimes the sightings are pretty phenomenal like this picture here, which was off the oregon coast. this is actually a concrete dock
that floated all the way across the ocean from japan and landed on the coast of oregon. i've got sons that are commercial fishermen. they spend their summers out on the water. you worry about obstacles in the water that our fishing vessels could encounter, running into a concrete dock is not something that any mariner would want to do. so you think two years after the fact, we should have seen most of the debris that we would anticipate and, in fact, the vast majority is still coming our way. or that's the understanding. these are biew buoys along the a shore. now, not all these buoys are from japan. some are just the general marine
debris that we see. but what we have been able to determine is that the japanese buoys are coming across, those that are sitting higher up on the water are moving more quickly. but things that are just below the water surface are still on their way. so how do we deal with all of this no how do we -- who do we reach the beaches, whether it's the beaches in oregon, california, hawaii or alaska? in alaska, we've got 33,000 miles of coastline. that's a lot of territory for -- for debris to -- to come up upon. and so much of this area in my state, these beaches are not accessible by vehicle. they're not accessible by road. there is -- it's extraordinarily difficult to deal with the cleanup. this is a picture of marine debris cleanup in a community by the name of yakitat, a small fishing village along the coast. what they're finding is that as they go out and as the community volunteers to just go out and
clean what beaches that they can, they have no -- no space in their small landfills there to accommodate the debris. so it would be one thing if we knew that this was all we were going to be dealing with. our reality is that we know more is coming. and how we respond to that is going to be key. it's going to be key and critical to -- to -- to the communities that are impacted, but for so many of these areas, where there are -- there are no individuals to see this, there are none to appreciate what has happened. but still we are faced with -- with styrofoam, plastics, nets, incredible amounts of nets, things that will not only foul the beaches but foul the animals that may be in the area. we've got a responsibility to act. so how do we do it? how do we do it at a time of --
of difficult budgets? we all appreciate that. it requires a level of creativity, if you will, partnerships with local and -- and government officials. it requires us to be proactive in terms of what is coming to -- to our shores. we have asked noaa to assist with a debris cleanup task force to get all of the agencies that are involved: state, tribal federal. to be participants in how we address these issues. the government of japan last year stepped forward and provided $5 million to the affected states plus an additional million dollars to canada for their -- just an effort, if you will -- they were not obligated to provide the money -- but in an effort to help us address the cleanups. but what we need to do here in this country -- and, again,
asking the white house to establish this interagency task force to deal with the debris that continues to come to our shore. how -- how we engage, how we're working together to help make a difference is going to be critical. and it's also -- we don't want to forget the private interests that are -- are potentially engaged in the cleanup. we've got so many different interests, so many different industries and private citizens that are so dependent on our navigable waterways, our healthy ecosystems. what we need is we need good communication we, need good leadership, we -- communication, we need good leadership, we need a plan to provide the leadership to the public-private approach. i do commend the noaa debris program for their coordination, their response to the work. but the fact is they're small, they're overtasked. they need the help of their federal partners to -- to address this as a national
priority. so as we continue to see increased levels of -- of debris coming over left after the tsunami, it's imperative that we act to -- to address it. it's -- it's been interesting in the alaska press because there have been ongoing stories about the connections. you think japan is -- is thousands of miles away and -- and we don't have that connect there. the beach combers finding a soccer ball with a -- with the name of a japanese boy, a 16-year-old boy, and his phone number, being able to make that call back to -- to the victimmage of reki nu ztaka, and tell that young man, whose family lost everything in the tsunami, that we've got your soccer ball here. it made it to the shore of middleton island in alaska. but for that young man to -- to
have been delivered that soccer ball after everything else that he and his family owned had been wiped out was a reminder that we're all -- we're all connected here and how we can be working together to help one another is key. in alaska, we've got a lot of experience with -- with helping our neighbors out. we will continue to -- to work to address the issues, work to address the debris that is reaching our shore. but we do need a little bit of help from -- from our government here. we do need a little bit of help when it comes to advancing this interagency task force so that we can -- we can address what we're seeing in alaska, what we're seeing on our coastline in the -- in the pacific northwest and in hawaii as well. with that, mr. president, i thank you, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: